World War II Flight Training Museum and
63rd AAF Flying Training Detachment

Douglas, Georgia

Henry Norris Watson


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Henry Norris Watson

European Theater

Rank: 1st Lt.

S/N O-818253

Mother: Mrs. Annie Lou Watson of Muscadine, AL

He graduated from High School at 15 years of age. He graduated from Moody Field, S/N: O-818253. He was assigned to the pilot school at Sebring.

As part of the 719th Bomb Sq (H), 449th bomb Gp, he was killed in a B-24 as part of a mission on Aug. 18, 1944 to the Ploesti oil fields. The ailerons were shot out of the left wing by flak over the target, leaving the plane out of control.

According to Air Force reports, from the target the plane was brought back by automatic pilot and was approaching the runway when it went into a right bank and was unable to pull out, because of no control. The plane was flying too low for the crew to bail out.

According to Grottaglie, and Home: A History of the 448 Bomb Group, and a quote from Myles O'Neill, who was nose gunner on the plane and who survived:

The crash that occurred August 18, 1944, forty-two years ago today, was mentioned in two areas of the book Tuscon to Grottaglie, and in Book II And This Is Our Story.

As you mentioned, "Who was involved in the crash landing at Grottaglie on return from Ploesti, 17 or 18 August, per Pate 67 of History Book?" It was also described in the And This Is Our Story, Book II on Page 29 in the story "They Flew the Toughest Missions."

We, Watson's crew, were in Aircraft Number 15 and had been hit numerous times by flak over the target (Ploesti), our ailerons were completely shot out. Most of the vertical stabilizer on the left side was blown off by flak. There were holes all over the aircraft.

After we were hit, we lot control of the aircraft and lost several thousand feet of altitude, but our pilot was able to get the aircraft under control by using the trim tabs and engine RPMs.

Engine Number 3 was detonating and caused us difficulty all the way back to Italy. Just before we reached Grottaglie Air Field, Engine Number 3 stopped. When the engine failed, the pilot was unable to control the aircraft. When he rang the bail-out alarm, we were only at an altitude of about 1500 feet. We tried to open the bomb bay door but couldn't because Engine Number 3 provided the power for hydraulics and the bomb bay doors were operated by hydraulic power.

The pilot and co-pilot never left their seats and continued to try to get the aircraft under control until we crashed into the ground. We were only about a mile from the base when we crashed. If engine Number 3 had held up for a few more minutes, we would have made it.

This was the 35th mission that the entire crew had flown together. We arrived in Italy in March of 1944. We flew our first mission April 5, 1944 to Ploesti and on Aug. 18, 1944 we were completing our seventh mission to Ploesti. We didn't miss many of the Ploesti missions and as a crew -- may have held the record for the most missions to Ploesti.

As a replacement crew we were assigned to the 719th Bomb Squadron and flew all of missions with the 719th.

...

There were six killed in the crash. (He names them and names the 4, including himself, who survived after hospitalization).

Myles E. O'Neill, Ph.D.

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